Sewing Blog

Party Dress Shortcuts: How to Make an Elegant Dress in a Hurry

Party on the calendar and nothing to wear? Here are some tips on making an elegant party dress in a hurry. With a little planning and some sewing shortcut,  you will be out of the sewing room and onto the dance floor!

Make your own blue taffeta party dress in a hurry!

Sew your own speedy party dress and all eyes will be on you!

The key to sewing a party dress quickly is all in the choices. Keep it simple: choose a fabric you know you will be successful with. This is not the time to tackle velvet or a slippery charmeuse. Choose a fabric that has a bit of sparkle, like this polyester taffeta — which also has the benefit of pressing quite easily and holding its shape. Plus, the print is ideal for hiding any less-than-perfect seams. 

Choose a simple pattern

bodice pattern pieces

This is the time to pull our your tried-and-true dress patterns — the ones you have already fitted and can sew with no adjustments. Or try a pattern with an easy style, so no fitting is required. You can make a simple pattern like this one look very elegant just by the choice of fabric.

I used a very simple bodice pattern with only a front and back waist dart. A blouson bodice with an elastic or drawstring waist would also work well. I decided to add a low V-neckline in the back, so I just folded down the pattern piece to make that change. No need to make or find a new pattern. Just use what you have. 

Simplify pattern markings

snip dart legs

Since this pattern has single waist darts, I minimized the pattern marking by snipping the dart legs to mark their location. You can put a pin or a quick tailor's tack at the dart end to mark that point. Pin and sew all the darts at once instead of going back and forth to the sewing machine — we are on a mission to sew fast!

Block fuse the facings

block fuse the facings

To make the dress facings, you can block fuse a piece of interfacing onto the uncut fabric and then cut out your facings. Block fusing means applying the interfacing to a piece of your fabric, and then cutting out the facings or other pieces that need interfacing from that pre-fused fabric.

For this, you can simply use your bodice pattern pieces — no need to hunt in the pattern envelope for the facing pieces. Make sure the fabric piece is long enough to continue about 2" down along the side seam and center back seam. You can trim it later.

Use fast seam finishes

using pinking shears to trim facing

Once you have the facings cut out, trim the lower edge so that they are about 2" to 3" wide, as shown above. Here's a task for the pinking shears! That way, you can trim and add a seam finish in one step.

If you are in a hurry, there is really no need to perfectly finish every inside seam. I think party clothes are a bit like a costume: Something for the moment or season, but next year styles will have moved on. So enjoy the party and don't worry about the state of your seam finishes. Nobody will know!

Sew on the facings

sew on facings

Constructing your garment is another place where you can save time. With a sleeveless dress, using an all-in-one facing that incorporates the neckline and armhole edges gives you a clean finish and is quick to sew. Stitch the shoulder seams of both the garment and the facings, but leave the side seams open. Sew on the facings as shown.

Trim and clip seams

trim and clip seams

No matter how fast you need to finish, one step that you should not skip is to clip the curved seams. Depending on the thickness of the fabric, you might be able to omit trimming the seam allowance, but the clipping is mandatory to get a nice edge when you turn it right side out.

Turn facings to inside

pulling facings through at shoulder seam

Now my favorite part! Since the back and sides are not yet sewn together you can pull the backs through at the shoulder seam and turn your garment right side out, creating beautifully finished neckline and armholes. 

Press the facing edges

press the facings

Now is the time to give the facing seams a good press. With this crisp fabric, under-stitching is not needed. Using this all-in-one neckline and armhole facing is helpful from keeping your facing from flipping outside, and no extra steps are needed to tack them down. 

Sew side seams

sew the side seams of bodice

Once the facings are done, sew up the side seams including the facings. Now the bodice is ready for the skirt to be attached. 

Cut out skirt pieces

cut out skirt pieces

A full skirt is ideal in this fabric — and also the quickest to sew. You can use the pattern pieces that came with the pattern, or just cut squares in the width you want for your skirt and gather at the waist. Attach to the bodice. Your dress is almost complete!

Zipper and hem

hem by machine

Once the skirt is attached to the bodice, you can sew the zipper in the center back seam. All that is left to do is hem your dress. Sew the hem by machine with a matching thread and your party dress is done!

party dress front and back

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3 Comments

Susan Fischer

Wow! And that’s all I have to say…..clear, complete yet easy to follow instructions.

Reply
SFPami

Beth, you have the greatest blog posts. Thanks so much for this!

Reply
Thea

Excellent tutorial! Great tips! Now I need an invitation to a party!!

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